Dead pitches, Dying hopes

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are fighting it out in the pre-lunch session on Day 3 of the final test match between India and England. The duo is battling hard to save the test and thus the series. But with Monty and Swann turning the ball and Jimmy Anderson working some reverse swing, things are not looking too bright for the Indians.

First things first, considering that India lost four early wickets last night, Kohli’s and Dhoni’s foremost task here should be to take India to safety. It is to take themselves as close as possible to England’s first innings total and stay positive during the course of the play. Because, like we know, cricket is a funny game and test cricket is even funnier, so expect anything.

In this series, we have had three results from three games and that sounds exciting. In fact the pitches which were prepared for these three tests were seemingly very home side friendly. And like I said in my post last month, England during initial part of this tour looked as if they would be challenged hard on such pitches. But it has been a dramatic turnaround with England using these pitches better than Indians and scoring two very convincing wins.

Come the final test match at Nagpur and accidentally or otherwise the pitch on offer here doesn’t seem good enough for test match cricket. It is slow, it is low and it is definitely heartbreaking for a cricket fan. Dead pitches suck life out of the game and whatever be the result in the end, the journey to that result isn’t enjoyable and you would agree: that defeats the whole purpose of the actual result, be it a win or a loss.

If test cricket has to stay a form which can pull fans to the stadiums, pitches need to be re-looked at and more than the pitches, what needs to look into is that ‘thing’ which results to such pitches. Is it the soil or something else? Whatever it is, the reality is: dead pitches are horrible for cricket. The hopes of revival are not dead though!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

England up against two very tough oppositions

Alastair Cook: Cricket ExclusiveAt the Heathrow airport, the moment they checked-in to fly to the Indian sub-continent, English side would have known this for sure. They would have known that they have two very tough oppositions to defy in order for them to maintain their reputation of a good all-round test side.

Two oppositions being – ‘the Indian side’ of course and ‘the sub-continent conditions’.

For past many years, England have been on top of their game when it comes to test match cricket. But to prove to the world that they are a good all-round side, the sub-continent challenge must be conquered. And make no mistake; this challenge is their biggest this year.

As I write this, England is falling apart. At lunch on day 3 of the 1st test match, they are 110/7 in response to the huge Indian score of 521/8d and clearly looking at a follow-on. One wonders what has suddenly gone wrong, what is it that a champion side like them as one TV commentator mentioned have ‘a noose tightened around their throat’? The answer, well, as most would agree is that they try too hard when up against good quality spinners on turning tracks… It is all in the mind.

If one watches closely the way English batsmen have got out, it can be noticed that they don’t have a clear approach towards playing spin. There is too much pre-meditation, there is over-complication in the manner the shots are being played and there is absolutely no attempt to simplify the method to go about things. Let me be very clear here, these players are top quality with no dearth of skills but at the moment their mindset is such that everything they do seems to come back and choke them. They are either too defensive to the extent of using just the pads or they (read Bell) want to go after the bowling from ball one. Indians batted on the same pitch with so much ease. Sehwag and Yuvraj looked great but Pujara was just outstanding, playing everything straight and late, just how you play on these tracks.

Amidst English performance (non-), due credit must be given to the Indian spinners who bowled really well. However bad the opposition is batting, you still have to put the ball in the right areas. In fact Dhoni had so much confidence in ability of his spinners that his premier fast bowler Umesh Yadav came into bowl only in the 48th over of English innings.

Well, all is not lost for England and they can still come back into this long four match test series, if not this test match. But for that to happen Alastair Cook and the coach Andy Flower have to do some thinking and get their strategies right, very quickly.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Folks, where is that leggie who used to flight it?

Shane Warne bowling for the Rajasthan Royals a...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great spectacle in a cricket game, though the batsman doesn’t see it at all. Amazing science, with a topping of art – popularly known as ‘leg spin’. Suddenly, the masters of this craft have gone missing. As I look around, I see some really good off spinners – (Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann in particular have managed to live up to the standards set by Murali, if not able to match him), and, some fine left-arm spinners too, sub-continent teams have a few of them. But, what I don’t see is a genuine leg break bowler who has the courage to flight it above batsmen’s eyes and land it in that ‘blind spot’.

Three men I miss in particular are the greats of our times, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed. While Anil was different in his approach being more of a finger spinner versus Warnie and Mushy who used wrist to create the magic, the fact is, all three were – DEADLY.

Skills of course, but more than that, the beauty of leg spin is in bowler’s attitude. A leg spinner is a tough nut and he is no less tough than a fast bowler. A fast bowler can still bowl a bouncer after being hit for six, a leg spinner cannot, BUT, a genuine leg spinner would flight the next one even more.

I am eagerly waiting for someone to arrive, because the game isn’t as lovely without an intrepid leggie. Imran Tahir, the South African of Pakistani origin is a potential case but he needs to negotiate the challenge of bowling to sub-continent batsmen in sub-continent before he claims any reputation, and that is some job, well, Warnie can tell you about his nightmares. That said, if such a leg spinner arrives, the world shall see batting techniques exposed and shall also know – who knows to bat!!!WW6PXY4QQTKV